Still waiting for information on Antioch Speedway's results, but I noticed a few interesting things out there I thought I'd comment on.
Over at the Dirt Stars forum, Mike Meazell reported in the Late Model section that Jim Soares announced that he has Petaluma Speedway for another five years. I've made no secret of the fact that I think Jim should continue to be the promoter over there and have mentioned that here a few times this year. I had heard that others were looking, and I think recent developments may have changed that. Since that's not important now, I won't get into it any further.
What is important is that Jim can continue to promote a track that has been in his family for decades, and he can continue to offer the variety of fan favorite divisions that he does. I know that the purses on some of these classes are not cheap, and he continues to do it. That you can go to a track that on some nights has Late Models, 360 Sprints, Wingless Spec Sprints and Dirt Modifieds is very rare these days, but Petaluma does it on occasion.
When Jim took over, only two of the classes were performing anywhere close to where you want them to, and he came in and turned it around. While the last couple of years have been trying at times, his Sprint Car program and Late Models are in double digits, as are the Dwarf Cars and Street Stocks. Everything isn't perfect, but what track is? There are things that need work, but Jim will turn it around. In the case of the Dirt Modifieds, he can only offer the races and the $100 to start purse. The racers have to get on board.
I would anticipate more Civil War 360 Sprint Car races at Petaluma in 2011, hopefully the Hunt Series for the Spec Sprints, some sort of 410 Sprint Car race, more Late Model racing and the usual divisions fans have come to expect from the All Pro Series at Petaluma. Congratulations Jim and best of luck to you for the next five years.
With that said, we now know who is running Petaluma, Antioch, Watsonville and Merced for the next few years. I'm just putting that out there. It's up to the powers that be what happens next, but a little cooperation would make things so much better for all.
Also at the Dirt Stars forum, Sam Kennedy asks an interesting question in the general section about 1st Amendment rights at the race track. Well, in this country, we still have them, at least for now, but a race track is a different animal. I know Sam isn't a fan of current management at Watsonville and has attended fair board meetings in opposition of that management. That is totally within his rights. Basically, the track is a dictatorship, and some places will go so far as to post a sign at the front stating they have a right to refuse admittance to anybody. Antioch Speedway, for instance, does that.
You can cheer and boo, but you don't have a right to get profane and disrupt people's enjoyment of the races. You don't have the right to distribute literature at the track or circulate petitions or that sort of thing without consent of the management. In fact, if they want to, they can bar cameras and video recorders. You don't have the right to organize anything at the track that the track deems negative or against its interest. Now, you can attend fair board meetings, you can use the internet to organize against management, you can stand on public property outside the track to protest if you have the necessary permissions, if you are so inclined.
You don't have a right to use track resources against them. They are within their rights to remove you from the premises if they feel you are being disruptive.
When I started my magazine years ago, I was selling them at the track. Bert Moreland even confiscated them one night on the grounds that a "might" have something negative against the track. This was the Jim Pettit II issue I was so proud of at the time. Bert later apologized for doing that, but he was within his rights. For the next couple of seasons, I went head to head with track management at times and had my press privileges revoked on more than one occasion. I felt I was in the right, but again, it's their ball park. If you are gonna fight the fight, you'd better be ready to pay the price.
Finally, I made the magazine a subscription and mail deal, so I would be free to handle my business on my own time. I still sold a copy or two at the track from that ti,me until about 1995, but the base of the business was mail. What was interesting to me is that I had people come to my face and talk about how they loved the magazine and getting it during the week, and a couple of those hypocrites went straight to track management and complained to them, AFTER telling me how good I was doing. I'd get in trouble again, but these magazines were sold off property during the week. I finally dropped those subscribers. I don't mind if you don't like it, but be honest with me.
Jackie did come on board for a few years and sold the magazine at the track, and though at times I was controversial, there was never a problem.
The last time I was kicked out in 2001, I didn't even sell a copy at the track. It was all mailed out. I was a ticket buying customer and a simple spectator, and I still got tossed out because my editorial pissed off track management. I wasn't doing anything on the premises and I could have fought it and won. but, at that point I didn't care. As I was walking away, past the pits, some of the racers thought it was funny, but I bet they aren't laughing now.
So, anyway, you don't have a right speak out against the track on their property. If you want to get creative and fight the good fight, there are ways to make it happen, but you aren't going to do it on the track's time. Whenever I was critical, I tried to make a point of offering solutions and would jump in if I got the chance. Simply being a jerk and being negative for the sake of being negative is not a good thing to do. If you love the sport, be a part of the solution. Otherwise, just shut up and go away. Why waste you're time if you hate it so much? No use spreading the misery.
Marshall Weaver brought up an interesting post on the Late Model Racer forum. He posted an some old photos from the Sportsman division at Merced from several years ago, and this is some pretty cool stuff. This prompted some cool responses about the history of our sport, and as usual, Ken Bonnema gets it. He knows the history of this sport matters, and how it can be a part of promoting the current sport. I've been saying this for years. Ken points out John Soares Jr. has a chance to start a Hall Of Fame at Merced and Antioch and what an opportunity it would be. He's right.
Going into the season, John had mentioned this time me, and I think it would be a good thing to do at both tracks. I still like the BCRA idea of a picnic before the races, and then everybody can come watch the races, maybe even a special extra distance race that night. If booked right, it would be a winner.